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European Commission


European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science

"Horizon 2020: a challenge for science and entrepreneurs"

Opening of new facilities in the Gdansk Science and Technology Park / Gdansk

10 July 2013

Professor Guliński, Professor Buzek,

Ladies and gentlemen,

New beginnings are always exciting.

Gdansk has an incredibly rich history. This city has felt the winds of change many times over the centuries. It has been a focal point for movements and events that have influenced a continent.

It is good to remember our past. But today, we are embracing the future.

I am honoured to be here, celebrating with you the opening of these new facilities in the Gdansk Science and Technology Park.

I am proud that EU funds helped to make this dream come true and that these buildings will serve to boost research and innovation in Pomerania.

This morning's conference addresses an essential issue in research and innovation policy: "How to build a social-economic environment for the intelligent development of regions?"

That's a very big question!

None of us has all of the answers, but we can certainly make a difference if universities and businesses, cities and regions, Member States and European institutions all work together.

Let me take you back three years. In June 2010, Europe's leaders presented the Europe 2020 Strategy, our roadmap to get the EU's economy back on track.

The Strategy put research and innovation at the forefront of Europe's efforts to transform our economy and provide the growth and jobs we so sorely need.

This is an approach that countries and regions across Europe are taking, not least here in Gdansk with the opening of these new facilities.

Indeed, you will get an idea of the importance that Europe's policy makers are placing on research and innovation as a path to growth and jobs when I tell you that it is the only area to see a major increase in funding under the next EU budget for 2014 to 2020.

This money will be invested through Horizon 2020, the new EU programme for research and innovation that will start at the beginning of next year – I'll talk some more about it in a moment.

Of course, Horizon 2020 is only one response in addressing our economic challenges.

Each and every Member State needs to strengthen public funding of research and innovation.

Here, Poland of course has a vital role to play.

This is the country that has weathered the economic crisis better than just about any other country in the European Union.  

But to maintain this impressive record, Poland has to accelerate the shift towards an innovation-driven economy.

There have been encouraging developments in that direction recently.

The Polish R&D system has undergone major restructuring over the last few years.

Recent reforms in the science and higher education sectors have strengthened science-business links, tackled mismatches between skills and jobs and introduced more competitive funding.

In addition, the recently adopted Strategy for Innovativeness and Effectiveness of the Economy (2012-2020) aims to reinforce the links between research, innovation and industry, create instruments to support the whole innovation cycle and improve access to finance for innovative companies.

There are many parallels with what we will do at the European level through Horizon 2020.

But there is room to do even more.

So I welcome the fact that Poland has set an ambitious target of 1.7 % for R&D intensity in the context of Europe 2020. This shows a strong commitment to overcoming any obstacles.

I am convinced that the combination of national and European measures will help Poland create an even more dynamic innovation economy.

There is a huge potential for Poland in Horizon 2020.

Poland's scientists and researchers, its businesses and SMEs, have drawn down 370 million Euro funding from the 7th Framework Programme.

The strongest areas are the social sciences and humanities, security, transport, food, agriculture and biotechnology.

In the future, the energy and ICT sectors could be added to the list of areas that attract European funding - the ICT sector is showing significant growth in terms of research publication and patents, while Polish publications on energy are at the top of the excellence rankings.

The Tri-City area is one of the most successful regions in Poland in terms of FP7 participation.

For example, the Institute of Hydro Engineering here in Gdansk and the Institute of Oceanology in Sopot are both participating in research infrastructure projects funded by FP7.

Poland has many excellent scientists and a strong tradition for excellence.

An example that immediately comes to mind is Marie Skłodowska-Curie, a young woman from Warsaw who went to Paris to perform her Nobel Prize winning research.

She inspired and gave her name to one of the most popular EU programmes, which enables tens of thousands of young researchers from all over Europe to travel abroad for specialised research training.

I am pleased that the former name of the programme has now been changed in recognition of her Polish origins.

Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions under FP7 have already funded 625 Polish researchers and granted over 32 million Euro to Polish institutes.

This successful programme will continue in Horizon 2020 and will hopefully attract researchers from all your leading universities.

In fact, the programme has something for everyone, whether you are a university researcher, a scientist in a multi-national company or an innovative small business.

One of Horizon 2020's biggest innovations is to bring together, for the first time, all EU research and innovation funding in one place.

We're doing this to make the funding more accessible and more effective.

As you may already know, Horizon 2020 is structured around three distinct, but mutually reinforcing pillars.

The first pillar, 'Excellence in the science base', will support frontier or basic research, including a major boost to the extremely successful European Research Council, which in six years has already become a gold standard for research.

The ERC offers a wealth of possibilities to Polish scientists. Too few of you are currently applying for and winning ERC grants and I want that to change in the future.

I hope that you will be inspired by ERC grantees such as Professor Ryszard Horodecki, conducting quantum physics research at the University of Gdansk with an ERC award of 2 million Euro.

Another big change from the previous Framework Programmes is that Horizon 2020 covers the whole innovation chain from basic research to innovative products. From lab to market; from bright idea to must-have product!

More money will be available for testing, prototyping, demonstration and pilot type activities, for business-driven R&D, for promoting entrepreneurship and risk-taking, and for shaping demand for innovative products and services.

Horizon 2020 will therefore help the business sector to reap full commercial rewards from in-house innovation.

And just like this Science and Technology Park, Horizon 2020 will be a place where science and business interact, sparking innovation and entrepreneurship.

So the second pillar, 'Creating industrial leadership and competitive frameworks', will support business research and innovation, including investment in what we call the Key Enabling Technologies.

These technologies, such as advanced manufacturing, nanotechnology and biotechnology, underpin innovation across many industries and sectors. We will invest to maintain a lead in these technologies.

An important aspect will be the development and implementation of research and innovation agendas through public-private partnerships that include strong and effective cooperation between industry and academia.

I think what will be especially interesting for Poland will be the SME instrument under Horizon 2020 and the new financing options in the form of risk-sharing (through guarantees) or risk finance (through loans and equity) to support research-driven and innovative companies.

I have already had the pleasure of congratulating Minister Kudrycka last month on the signature of a guarantee agreement under the Risk-Sharing Instrument with Bank Pekao, a first for Poland.

This is excellent news, meaning that Poland joins the group of ten Member States already benefiting from this pilot scheme to support our most innovative SMEs.

The third pillar of Horizon 2020, 'Tackling societal challenges', will focus on tackling the major challenges in our society, such as climate change, food and energy security or public health.

If we are to solve these challenges, researchers and innovators in every Member State need to build alliances and collaborate across Europe. Horizon 2020 will give them the means to do so.

Horizon 2020 will fund the very best research and the very best innovation. So, it will continue to allocate funding on a competitive basis. Promoting excellence demands as much.

But we have planned a number of measures to ensure that the programme is open to a wide range of participants, from all the Member States.

We want to 'widen' participation in Horizon 2020 as a way to bridge Europe's innovation divide.

The Regional Innovation Scoreboard for 2012 shows that moderate and modest innovators are mainly found in central, eastern and southern Europe - indicating that some countries and regions are not yet exploiting their full innovation potential.

While by definition, excellence cannot be everywhere, I firmly believe that it can develop and thrive anywhere, and Horizon 2020 will lend a helping hand.

Twinning and teaming actions will strengthen the scientific excellence and innovation capacities of emerging institutions. "Twinning" aims to significantly strengthen an emerging institution's capacities in a specific field of research through co-operation with at least two internationally renowned counterparts in Europe.

Rather than developing excellence in a specific field of research, the "teaming" actions have a wider goal of significantly upgrading or creating new Centres of Excellence by teaming up with leading research counterparts in Europe.

The newly-launched ERA Chairs initiative will bring outstanding academics to institutions in regions that may not have been so successful in securing EU funding, but have high potential for research excellence.

There was an excellent response to the first pilot call on ERA Chairs launched last December, including seven applications from Polish research institutions. This will help to create a level playing field for research and innovation activity within the European Union.

In order to maximize the efficiency of European funding, the European Commission has proposed a clearer division of labour and, at the same time, a stronger interaction between Horizon 2020 and Structural Funds.

Therefore, the support for regions in building up their research and innovation capacity will be provided through Cohesion policy.

Each region and Member State should develop smart specialisation strategies that build on their respective strengths. It means that they will be betting on their most likely winners.

In fact, such a strategy will be a precondition to research and innovation funding from the European Structural and Investment Funds, the new name for the Structural Funds.

I am pleased that Poland is taking a lead role here through its active participation in the work of the Smart Specialisation Platform at the Commission's Joint Research Centre in Seville. I'm keen to hear how this region is selecting its strengths and developing new ones towards your smart specialisation strategy.

Horizon 2020 will provide numerous opportunities for Poland's researchers and innovators to do the best work they can.

You are standing on the shoulders of giants like Copernicus and Marie Skłodowska-Curie, and famous scientific sons of Gdansk like Johannes Hevelius and Daniel Fahrenheit.

You can also be inspired by the renowned virologist, Dr. Hilary Koprowski, who died just a few months ago. He is perhaps most famous for developing the first live-virus polio vaccine, and was a patron of this Park.

I wish the Gdansk Science and Technology Park every success. And I wish its researchers and entrepreneurs every success in collaborating with partners across Europe.

We've designed Horizon 2020 to be at your service, to help you make the most out of your ideas and your creativity. So get ready for its launch in a few months' time!

Thank you.

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